Scientists Discover New Bone-Forming Growth Factor That Reverses Osteoporosis in Mice

A team of scientists at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern (CRI) discovered a new bone-forming growth factor, Osteolectin (Clec11a), which reverses osteoporosis in mice and has implications for regenerative medicine. Although Osteolectin is known to be made by certain bone marrow and bone cells, CRI researchers are the first to show Osteolectin promotes the formation of new bone from skeletal stem cells in the bone marrow. The study, published online on December 13, 2016 in eLife, also found that deletion of Osteolectin in mice causes accelerated bone loss during adulthood and symptoms of osteoporosis, such as reduced bone strength and delayed fracture healing. The article is titled “Clec11a/osteolectin Is an Osteogenic Growth Factor That Promotes the Maintenance of the Adult Skeleton.” “These results demonstrate the important role Osteolectin plays in new bone formation and maintaining adult bone mass. This study opens up the possibility of using this growth factor to treat diseases like osteoporosis,” said Dr. Sean Morrison, who led the team that made the discovery. Dr. Morrison, CRI Director, holds the Mary McDermott Cook Chair in Pediatric Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and the Kathryne and Gene Bishop Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Research at Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern. Osteoporosis, a progressive bone disease characterized by decreased bone mass and an increase in fractures, affects over 200 million people worldwide. Most existing therapies such as bisphosphonate drugs reduce the rate of bone loss, but they do not promote new bone growth. Teriparatide (PTH) is the only agent currently approved for the formation of new bone, but its use is limited to two years due to a potential risk of osteosarcoma.
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